The Kirkland City Council decision to ban plastic bags and mandate a five-cent fee on paper bags is in direct contradiction to the results of the city's own survey of Kirkland citizens. In fact, the city's own study showed that 69% of Kirklanders opposed banning plastic shopping bags. The City Council ignored the citizens they represent and voted 6-1 to pass Ordinance O-4477 at their regularly scheduled meeting on February 17.
What is most shocking is the heavy-handed wielding of power displayed by this council. The city refused other less oppressive alternatives such as increasing public education and outreach, promoting voluntary measures or even increasing plastic bag recycling stations. Instead, they chose a complete ban on plastic bags and to require shoppers to pay five-cents for each paper bag.
While there is debate as to which type of bag is worse for the environment (It takes less energy to create plastic bags than paper bags; however plastic is made from fossil fuels), it seems to this environmentally concerned, well-educated consumer that public education should have been the first move made by our council rather than an add-on to the most extreme option available to them.
Perhaps it is the prevailing attitude conveyed by the council which most irks my sensibilities. The Kirkland City Council voted to inflict what one councilmember described as "punishment" in order to force social change. Some may view this move as an example of strong leadership.
Others will view the council actions in a more foreboding light. It was Deputy Mayor Penny Sweet who justified her vote to mandate a five-cent per paper bag fee by saying, “It’s the punishment piece of it that I think drives a whole lot of change.” Really? Our deputy mayor wishes to inflict "punishment" upon the people of Kirkland in order to get them to succumb to the council's will? These words are not an example of leadership. The mindset revealed by our city council which wishes to inflict punishment upon the people is shocking dictatorial and frankly, offense.
A council which inflicts "punishment" in order to force the public to abide by their will is not a serving the people well. A smarter alternative for the council would have been to build consensus.
Our representatives chose the most radical and costly option available to them over every other option in the face of overwhelming opposition by the people. This was a polarizing move by the council. There were reasonable and consensus building options available but they chose otherwise.
We all want clean air, clean water and a brighter future for our children and grandchildren. We do not want elected officials who treat us like children, ignore our will or punish us when we disobey their dictates.
Despite the full court press the city's PR machine will surely churn out over the next year, this is not the Kirkland City Council's finest hour. They could have chosen to build community and foster understanding through education and outreach. They could have done better. But they did not. Our council chose to use the hammer of punishment instead of the hand of guidance. And that is a shame.
Kirkland truly has become the definition of a nanny state.